October 8, 2020
EcoEvoPub Seminar Series
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA
" Graduate Student Presentations "
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA, Van Valkenburgh Lab
“Can tool usage impact morphology? An interspecific analysis of otters”
Sea and river otters are similar in their aquatic and semi-aquatic lifestyles as well as in their fusiform body plans. However, different species have been known to use their forelimbs for alternate purposes such as digging and walking in the Giant Otter Pteronura brasiliensis or using tools to access food as with the California sea otter, Enhydra lutris. Given that tool use relies on the forelimbs, we predict that forelimb shape will be significantly different between tool using and non-tool using groups (both within sea otters and between otter species). We collected landmark data for the humerus, ulna and radius of 74 individuals from 16 species of otters to compare forelimb shape across the subfamily Lutrinae. For each, we placed 15 -17 landmark points using ImageJ and analyzed those landmarks using the Geomorph and Stereomorph packages in R. We found that sea otters differ in the shape of the humerus and ulna when compared to other species of otter. This pattern within the humerus and ulna also holds true when looking within sea otters at populations that differ in tool use frequency. The shape of the radius seems to have little association with tool usage and may be more associated with body size and weight-bearing. Overall, the shape of the forelimb bones within otters is associated with tool use frequency and future work will incorporate pre fur trade and fossil specimens to better identify forelimb morphology associated with tool usage.
Authors: Christiane Jacquemetton1, Rachel Russell1, Brandon Hupka1, Abigail Drexler1, Katherine Ralls2, and Blaire Van Valkenburgh1
1University of California, Los Angeles 2Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA, Pinter-Wollman Lab
“Animal Behavior Research Ethics”
From both an animal-centric and human-centric perspective, researchers can benefit from thoughtful reflection on the moral and ethical implications of research and field protocols. With many journals now having designated ethics editors involved in the publication process, understanding the criteria used to address ethical concerns is a useful skill for any researcher to have. When it comes to studying animals in particular, it is important to carefully examine how we treat our study subjects both in the lab and the field. This includes incorporating ethical considerations of animal welfare into experimental design protocols that balance the need to minimize cost with the desire to maximize benefits. In addition to animal-focused ethical guidelines, research ethics as it pertains to human activities while conducting research also requires scrutiny. Research does not exist in a vacuum, and when it comes to field work especially, starting a conversation between transient and resident researchers is essential in decolonizing research practices. While this will focus on the guidelines related to Animal Behavior, key takeaways can apply to all EEB research.